Can Your Ashes to prevent fires

As the temperature drops in the Tahoe Sierra, and fireplaces and heating stoves are turned on, it’s important to remember a few safety tips and precautions. Heating equipment and improper ash disposal are leading causes of home and wildland fires during the fall and winter months.

According to the National Fire Protection Association from 2013 to 2017, charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,100 home fires per year, including 600 structure fires and 500 outside fires annually.

Be warm and safe this season and consider following these safety tips:

  • Have heating equipment, chimney and stove inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep every fall just before heating season.
  • Allow ashes to cool completely before disposing of them. Four days or 96 hours is the minimum recommended cooling period for ashes.
  • Place completely cooled ashes in a covered metal container. Keep the container at least 10 feet away from the home and other buildings. They should never be disposed of in a plastic garbage box or can, a cardboard box or paper grocery bag. Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
  • The metal container should be placed away from anything flammable. It should not be placed next to a firewood pile, up against or in the garage, on or under a wood deck or under a porch.
  • After sitting for a week in the metal container, check ashes again to be sure they are cool. If so, the ashes are then safe to dispose of in your trash.
  • As a safety precaution keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from a fireplace, wood stove or any other heating appliance and create a 3-foot, kid-free zone around open fires. It is important to make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying. Never leave a fire unattended, particularly when children are present.
  • Many fire districts have ash-can programs; check with your local fire district for more information.